No single product better encapsulates the 2000's era releases of vintage Joe molds than the #26 comic pack. On the surface, this was a highly requested item by collectors of the time. It featured three of the most popular characters in the Joe mythos and illustrated a pivotal scene for all of them. Yet, at the end, the figures used parts that had appeared multiple times in just the Comic Pack sets alone. And, the new parts still featured issues that kept them from really being perfect. In short, the figures have a distinctive look of 2000's era Joe releases that helps separate them from vintage figures and the anniversary look that would immediately come after them. At the time, the Vietnam pack was well liked. But, all of the focus was on Classified and Stalker. The final member of the pack, Tommy Arashikage, was somewhat derided and left behind. Now, 15 years later, though, I better see some of the value in Tommy, even if the figure remains flawed.
Hasbro had a nice parts library available to them in the 2000's. Instead of engaging it, though, they stuck with the same pieces over and over. Big Ben, Firefly and Red Star all found tons of uses...to the point where their parts got stale. Another greatly overused figure was the 1984 Roadblock. His parts appeared commonly. And, they make up the bulk of Tommy. The Roadblock torso mold is odd as it was designed to show muscles at a time when the sculpting quality wasn't quite ready for that challenge. So, it's always been a bit top heavy. And, that continues with Tommy. The fact that Tommy has this massive bare chest, but is still wearing sleeves really is an odd look. The web gear doesn't hide his chest, either. So, it can't cover the sins of poor parts choices. Hasbro never spent much effort finding and making quality figures from obscure or unused parts. So, the Comic Packs got repetitive quickly. And, this Tommy was somewhat swept under the rug by collectors of the day who found the Roadblock torso and legs overused.
My biggest issue with the figure is the skin tones. Hasbro really struggled with skin tones in the 2000's. And, that is evident on Tommy. The main mistake they made, though, is that they attempted to match painted flesh on the head and lower arms with plastic flesh on the chest. The result is that Tommy's head and arms are slightly different colors than the chest. And, as the arms use flesh paint, it is globbed over hands, making them difficult to use without rubbing the paint away. There is really no reason for the heads and arms to be painted. The other details on each piece required paint masks. So, casting the head and arms in the same plastic as the chest would have made the figure more cohesive. And, frankly, more useful as you wouldn't be so loathe to risk damage to the figure just by putting his gun in his hand.
Tommy's head isn't perfect. Hasbro could not get the ARAH heads quite right in the 2000's. Most were terrible. But, as the Comic Packs progressed, the sculpting did improve. The real value in Tommy's head, though, is the tied bandanna on the back. While the head is still too large to really fit the ARAH figure body from two decades prior, the bandanna is a nice piece of work. It features multiple paint masks of greens and brown. And, the front and sides are somewhat smaller, denoting it being covered by hair, before enlarging into two flowing ribbons emerging from the knot at the back. It is sculpting and painting beyond anything seen in the vintage Joe line and is the hallmark of the Tommy figure.
Frankly, the quality is the Comic Pack figures has proven to be terrible. From massive discoloration on blue and white figures, to mis-shapen hands right out the package, the Comic Pack figures have not held up well. To make matters worse, Tommy has a design flaw that leads to his chest cracking at the neck. Even carded figures will feature this affliction. Tommy is not alone in this design flaw as it appears on many Comic Pack, TRU and even JvC sculpt figures from that era. The 2000's plastic is performing badly over time. So, finding a truly mint Tommy will take some doing. And, it's still pretty likely that the crack will form, even when the figure is locked away in proper storage.
Tommy's accessories are pretty nice. He includes a bow, quiver and 2 arrows that were sculpted for ninja releases during the 2000's era. The quiver works well when slung over his arm. But, the Roadblock torso and the web gear that are also included with the figure really prevent it from being worn over the shoulder as the 2004 Ninjas do. The final accessory is a repaint of the 1992 Shockwave rifle. All of Tommy's accessories are grey. And, that grey color is unique to this comic pack. As there were Tommy figures available as overstock from Asia, you often see figures with incorrect, black weapons from other, earlier figures. (It should be noted, though, that the Vietnam figures' weapons were also available as overstock from Asia and some people have large quantities of spares in the right color.) So, pay close attention to the accessory color when you purchase a Tommy to ensure he has the proper gear.
In the 15 years since this figure was released, it has aged better than some of his contemporaries. But, that's mostly due to the cohesiveness of the #26 set and the need for all three figures to be present in a collection. I still rarely use the figure. And, he really doesn't appear all that often in other photos or dios. (Classified, though, does.) On some level, though, this figure works on a few different levels. Sure, you can have it be a time-period-bound Tommy figure. Or, it can be someone new to the Joe team who brings some additional skills. Honestly, I can also see the figure as an updated and more useful Quick Kick, too. The fact that ignored Tommy for so long allows him some latitude in my collection as I see him as something new where I can start a new character. And, while the figure isn't perfect, few releases in the 2000's were. And, I'm more forgiving of the limitations of the repaint era now that it's more in the rear view mirror than the vintage line was when this figure was released.
When Hasbro released this set, it was readily available. In fact, it was part of the overstock that went to Toys R Us stores. For a while, this pack sat on the pegs with the other, less desirable sets. Then, rather suddenly, they were gone. This Vietnam pack was simply absorbed and never really hit clearance prices. The other Comic Packs that were contemporary to it then followed suit. And, more than a few collectors of the time were suddenly left without the set and none available at retail. And, as few collectors stockpiled this set like they did the earlier sets that were blown out as cheaply as $3 per pack, there wasn't collector overstock to help. It's likely that this pack was produced in similar numbers to the Oktober Guard packs. But, as collectors hadn't abandoned the line in early 2005, there was more interest and they saw a smaller retail window.
Dealers price Tommy around $50. But, they don't sell for that price. Due to low supply it seems they can move them for a $40 price tag with figures at open pricing going as low as $30. In general, Tommies seem to be more expensive than the Stalker figure from the same pack, but less than the Classified figure. If you don't have a set, it's no longer cheaper and easier to just buy a carded set and open it, though. You'll pay $250 for that privilege. For the money, this figure isn't worth it. It's easily the worst figure in the set. And, there's far better figures for the money that are way more worthwhile acquisitions. But, for the right price, the figure is an interesting conversation piece. And, the general ambivalence to this figure from the community means you can get something that will give your photos some distinction.